Provincial southern hemisphere rugby supremacy was confirmed in 2013 when hometown heroes The Chiefs won back-to-back Super Rugby titles here; the sports-mad region also plays host to many of New Zealand's Olympian rowing and cycling stars. An easy drive down the highway from Auckland, this is also the base for exploring unique attractions like Waitomo's extraordinary glow worm caves and Matamata's Hobbiton Movie Set.
The game plan
With spectators close to the action at every point in the ground, broad grassy embankments and traditional picket fences, don't miss seeing a match at one of New Zealand's most beloved international cricket venues. South Africa meets Zimbabwe at Hamilton's Seddon Park for an all-African showdown on 15 February; India plays Ireland on 10 March and New Zealand's BLACKCAPS face rising stars Bangladesh on 13 March. All day-night matches just a five-minute stroll from the CBD, the party will kick on afterwards in the humming nightlife of Hood Street.
Place in history
Blistering batting records smashed at Seddon Park hint at how fondly batsmen regard this ground. The world record for most runs off one over in a test match was broken here in 2001 when New Zealand batsman Craig McMillan plundered 26 from Pakistan bowler Younis Khan. McMillan, who played in the 2003 and 2007 Cricket World Cups, had a love affair with Seddon as he also set the record for the fastest New Zealand One-Day International hundred here in 2007 (67 balls) against Australia. Not to be outdone, Virender Sehwag shattered the Indian record with a brilliant 60-ball hundred here in 2009.
Seddon Park is one of few grounds in New Zealand purpose-built for cricket and reserved almost exclusively for use by the summer game.
Visitors gazing at the western skyscape will see two sets of light towers coolly eyeing each other - the other is the nearby rugby stadium. Opened in 1950, Seddon Park was named for popular Prime Minister Richard 'King Dick' Seddon, who held the country's top job from 1893 to 1906.
City and region
One of New Zealand's largest cities, Hamilton is the eye of the verdant Waikato region. Waikato is also the name of New Zealand's largest river, which runs through the city like a shimmering jade ribbon.
With nowhere in New Zealand more than a couple of hours' drive from the coast, Hamiltonians can take their pick from the wheel of holiday destinations around them: idyllic surfie town Raglan is 45 minutes to the west, Rotorua's geothermal wonderland and Coromandel's dreamy unspoilt beaches are to the east, while Taupo's lake and mountain plateau lies south, and the energy of Auckland to the north.
Things to see
Look to the east, for there lies Middle-earth... Matamata's enchanting pastoral heartland proved the perfect place for Kiwi film director Sir Peter Jackson to create Hobbiton, home of the hairy-footed heroes of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord Of The Rings fantasy classics. Just a 45-minute drive from Hamilton, see the movie magic and draw an ale in the Green Dragon pub with a guided Hobbiton Movie Set Tour. Thermal springs abound in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions: soak it up at Hot Water Beach, Miranda, Te Aroha, Matamata or Rotorua.
Head south to the King Country to see the glow worms and go wet or dry adventuring in Waitomo's legendary labyrinth of subterranean caves. And in Hamilton itself? Get up and away in your beautiful balloon, it's the perfect place for hot air ballooning.